Book Review

Book Review: Onyx & Ivory (Rime Chronicles #1) by Mindee Arnett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 512 pages
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

FELT VERY TYPICAL YA FANTASY.

I haven’t had a chance to get to this review for a few days, and now I’m sitting here trying to think about everything that happened and I can barely remember. Uh oh.

This was a very typical young adult fantasy novel. Mostly unremarkable, but you still enjoy it. You just don’t LOVE it. That about sums up all of my feelings for this.

Things started off a bit slow and confusing. We dove head first into the story and I had a hard time adjusting to the magic system, world, politics, and relationships of everyone. What I was feeling was the second chance love story between Kate and Corwin. Was a bit rocky, and full of Corwin trying to show Kate how much she means to him. Though he made a mistake I wasn’t totally comfortable with *shrugs;* wasn’t a full deal breaker at least. They had some good banter, and a few touching moments with a solid ending. I’ll take it!

It took me awhile to figure out what the plot was. I didn’t know who was bad, what we were trying to stop, and where the main focus lied. I’m thankful that this all worked itself out. As I finished it, I definitely understood what was going on and think that this will make the second book infinitely better. There were some odd political discussions that seemed out of place. And also, the weird battle/trial thing between his brother for the Kingship? What is that?! This was random too and I know it still has to end in the second book, but I need more info. Because WHY.

I did finish this 500+ page saga, which means I didn’t hate it. It was just stagnant. I’ll keep an eye out for the second book and we’ll see if I get around to reading it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and almost love scene (a little descriptive)
  • Violence: battle, animal attacks, swords, guns, magic; not intensely gory/bloody

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: A Kingdom of Exiles (Outcasts #1) by S.B. Nova

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 600 pages
Author: S.B. Nova
Publisher: Night Owl Publishing
Release Date: December 17th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The brightest of stars are always born on the darkest of nights.

Serena Smith is unusual.

Growing up in a backwoods village, her life is lonely and dull. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she’s gifted a magical heirloom only to be snatched by fae and condemned to a lifetime in chains.

Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena discovers a forbidden love, and meets fellow outcasts, each with their own dark secrets.

As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash, they find a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s unique gifts, can they survive long enough to build the flames of a revolution. Only together can they go to war …

DID SOMEONE SAY FAE?

Yes, I come running to a book when I hear that. And this was no different, and was a great read!

Oooo boy, finally finished this one. I read it through Amazon Prime so I didn’t pay attention to the page count, did you know this book is 600 pages? NEITHER DID I. Yet, somehow, I consistently found myself wanting to come back and read this. I would put it down to read a few chapters from another book and wouldn’t feel as invested because I wanted to dive into this story more. Yes it’s long, but it somehow feels like everything was a necessary piece of the puzzle.

I would desperately like to know who Serena’s mate is though y’all. WHO WHO WHO…who. There was kind of a roulette situation happening with multiple fae where I was convinced each time, oh this is her endgame, and then was thrown off that to someone else! I still have no inkling. The romance in this book is a bit all over the place. Her relationship (that’s supposed to be family based) seems way more than that. The one that was more romantic, didn’t have me really shipping them, AND I’m JUST LOST. If you can’t tell by my rambling sentences.

Serena is definitely a work in progress. Since this is only the first book, I am totally cool with not LOVING her character, but seeing where she can go. I wish she could do a little more for herself, yet I see that she needed to form all of the bonds because she was dealt a crappy hand in the human world. This allowed her to have friendships and people truly close to her.

I love the bit of squad goals we had with Serena’s pack. Frazer (LOVE HIM) needs to be my best friend. I would love him so! I love the team dynamics and the protectiveness that forms through the trials they go through at the military training camp.

The setting and world-building is a bit confusing at times. I really wasn’t grasping the view of the world until way deeper into the book (and a thorough read through of the map). I love maps, but feel like when I’m reading the book itself I shouldn’t have to keep checking back to confirm where I am. The story should be able to narrate that.

Some of the twists near the end had me stunned. I genuinely didn’t see them coming. I thought the lead up was great and can’t wait to get the villain on screen.

I also spent some time looking up information on the next book and stumbled upon the fact that this is supposed to be a four book series. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT THAT LONG.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, physical, skirmishes, arrows, poison, murder
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching, Ch. 2)

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 528 pages
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

REID & LOU: NEW OTP.

In recent memory I can easily say that this was a book that actually lived up to the hype. I LOVED IT. Barely 50 pages in, I was hooked, and I wanted to savor the rest of this amazing story.

Loved this setting. Loved the writing. Love these characters.

Speaking of, REID y’all. I love how passionate he was (and rather stubborn too), but also very tender and had a big heart beneath it all. I liked the influence his religion played on all of his decisions and emotions. He stayed true to who he was, but also learned to be open and adapt to previously misleading information. He was SO CUTE and I adore him. His love scene with Lou was also unique for YA and I found it absolutely amazing and well done (and that’s all I will say on that to avoid spoilers, but you’ll understand if you’ve read it!).

Lou was a great MC too. I love how much she chooses love. Lou wanted more out of life than what she was handed and sought after those things and I applaud her for it. Her growth was immense and she learned a lot about herself too. It was so appealing to have both Reid and Lou see outside their boxes to learn and understand about one another.

Best friend alert: Ansel & Coco. OH MY GOODNESS. The side characters were fabulous! I loved this just as much as the MCs. They had a lot to offer and actually brought something to the table. Ansel was my sweet baby and I just want to love him forever okay? I beg the universe not to kill him off in the next book, I might shatter. HE WAS PERFECT. Coco was her own fiery beast that I would so be BFFs with. Easy to love, sneaky, loyal, yes yes yes. Beau was a great addition towards the end too. I’m very curious how he’ll play a part in book two.

Lots of action and intrigue in this book. The pacing kept me constantly intrigued. There was a steady flow of things happening, to slowing down a bit, and to not notice that this book was 500 pages is a stellar job all on it’s own. I enjoyed the villain immensely more than I even considered I might. They threw in some twists I didn’t see coming and were seriously, heinously evil. I will clap for that because I hate a wishy-washy bad guy.

BOOK TWO, I NEED YOU.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, blood magic, physical, knives, swords, poison, paralysis via drugs, torture, arrows

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction +fantasy
Length: 352 pages
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push the earth and the otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve daily mysteries in New Fiddleham, New England—like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why the undead are appearing around town.

At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, Jenny Cavanaugh, begins to give way. But before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

The epic conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series features wry humor and a cast of unforgettable characters facing off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever.

READ EVERY LAST DANG PAGE OF THIS BOOK.

Or you might feel like throwing it across the room. Like me. Then I read it all. Then I got the ending I was demanding from my bookish soul.

This was a great finale! Definitely the best book of the series by far.

I loved watching all of the story lines come together. Seeing all of the characters align. It all was beautifully woven and closed the ending as it should be. I wasn’t left with questions or concerns. I closed the book at peace. That’s a good ending. There was even a double crossing betrayer that I had no idea was coming. It was a twist that added an edge.

ABIGAIL AND CHARLIE ARE SO DANG CUTE. Absolutely precious. This was the first time I wish they had some more screen time. I was smitten with Charlie and their interactions. They were a great, simple, no drama relationship that added the touch of romance to round out this series.

Jackaby and Abigail are once again a dynamic duo. Jenny became team member number three and I loved having her around more! The banter and dynamics between everyone always make me smile and really appreciate their friendships. I was so happy that Jackaby got the ending he deserved. It made a lot of sense and I figured it would have to move in that direction to bring closure.

This is one of those books that handles the addition of literally every magical creature from fairytales and folklore well. They’re SO MANY CREATURES. I love learning more about them and the way they each added their own touch.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction/fantasy/paranormal mystery
  • Language: one word (witch)
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, magic, swords, murder, animal attacks, vampire attacks, physical

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: When the World Didn’t End: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult poetry
Length: 192 pages
Author: Caroline Kaufman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Expected Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Teen Instagram sensation and author of Light Filters In @poeticpoison returns with a second collection of short, powerful poems about love, forgiveness, self-discovery, and what it’s like living after a hard-fought battle with depression, in the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and the princess saves herself in this one.

Thank you to BookSparks and their Fall Reading Challenge Campaign for a gifted copy. All thoughts are my own!

WOW. I NEED TO READ MORE POETRY.

This made me realize that I’m really missing out on poetry books. I generally don’t pick them up. Not because I don’t like poetry, it’s just not what I first think of. Clearly, I need to add a few more into rotation.

As someone who personally struggles with depression, I felt a lot of these poems. I was able to connect with Kaufman’s powerful words and meanings. Words matter y’all.

“I am a book
with the pages all worn.

the cover is tearing,
the ink is fading,

but I swear I’m worth the read.”

This is a shorter review because the poetry book itself is less than 200 pages, but trust me, there is a lot of substance within those pages. I read it in one sitting because I was entranced by the vulnerability and rawness of her words.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult poetry
  • Language: a few words
  • Trigger warnings: There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book mentioning that some of the poems include themes of: mental illness, suicidal ideation, self-harm, disordered eating, and sexual assault

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Bloodleaf (Bloodleaf #1) by Crystal Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 373 pages
Author: Crystal Smith
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

I’M NOT SURE WHERE TO START.

This was nothing new in the world of young adult fantasy. That’s not generally an issue because I know it must be crazy hard to be completely new. My issue here was that the story didn’t anything else to help me ignore the fact I had seen this all before.

What I did like is how dark it actually kinda turned out to be. Holy wow there was a lot of people murdered in this book. It followed the story line well and only two people weren’t actually dead which is pretty solid considering almost everyone never actually dies (it’s okay to kill characters off sometimes guys, I stand by this).

It was a pretty short book (under 400 pages) and everything happened SO DANG FAST. I felt like I was running while reading this. I really wanted some slow down moments where we got to know characters on a deeper level that helps me form bonds with them. I was on the cusp of hitting that with a few and wanted MORE.

All of the twists were so well telegraphed I saw them from a mile away. No, scratch that, 10 miles away. From the moment they walked onto the screen I knew what was going to happen eventually. It was probably the biggest factor in bringing down the rating. I wanted more intrigue and confusion. Instead, all of the big moments were announcing themselves as bright as humanly possible.

Did I ship the relationship? Yes. Could have used an extra dose of enemies to lovers but nonetheless, it’s sweet and I like where it’s going. I did not understand the point of throwing out the first guy within the first quarter of the book (you’ll understand if you read it). Since I didn’t know anyone that well it made shrug and roll my eyes.

My evil characters are luckily, pretty dang evil. So I’m here for that. I want to see what they do next because it’ll definitely be interesting. This book ended in a way that made things seem like *the end,* but it turns out there’s more. We’ll see what happens next!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses and confessions of love
  • Violence: blood magic, poison, knives, murder (better detailed in triggers)
  • Trigger warnings: murder of an animal (pretty gruesome and detailed), murder of a pregnant woman (baby does survive), other detailed and gory murders, attempted sexual assault and a suicide (a mother does it to save her son)

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

Rating: ☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult contemporary mystery
Length: 416 pages
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 16th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. 

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

UNFORTUNATELY. I WAS BORED.

The entire time y’all. I kept reading thinking things were going to amp up, and they never did. And I know it’s a series, but I was more annoyed that I felt like I got ZERO answers than wanting to read the second book. I even had a bookish friend who told me what happens in book two because I really didn’t want to read it (though I will say, it does seem moderately more interesting in case you want to pick it up).

It took til about 200 pages (halfway-ish) for anything to happen. I was way more interested in the flashbacks where the original murder had taken place than I was with Stevie at school. Most of the story focused on being in school and meeting other students (which were all trying way too hard).

The original story was interesting and I wanted that to play a bigger role in the present timeline. That really drove the story for me.

I hated most of the side characters other than Nate and Janelle. This group of three were building a solid friendship and I was enjoying seeing that dynamic. They were supporting each other and being kind when Stevie made some bad choices acting as a wannabe Sherlock Holmes (not on board with her going through people’s things).

I did NOT GET THE RELATIONSHIP WITH DANIEL. It came out of literally nowhere. Luckily, not in an instant-love kinda way, but just a flat-out, wait all of a sudden we’re making out kinda way. I did become a fan of Daniel towards the end of the story though. He was probably my favorite character.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary mystery
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: a make-out
  • Violence: multiple descriptions of murder

Instagram || Goodreads